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Listed Building record MDR9848 - Cromford Canal Wharf, Cromford

Type and Period (1)

  • (Georgian to Victorian - 1794 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

Cromford Wharf is the terminus of the Cromford Canal, and contains two warehouse buildings, one of which still retains its overhead canopy to cover the narrowboats whilst they were loading and unloading. Above the wharf the canal splits into two arms, each arm serving one of the wharf buildings. The buildings are of stone, the west building is gabled and has a canopy, while the east building presents a crenellated end elevation to the road, and is hipped at the wharf elevation. The buildings have slate roofs. (1) SK 301570. The northern terminus of the Cromford Canal. The Wharf and some warehouses were constructed in 1793 but the upper part was extended later. Restoration has been attempted. (2) The Cromford Canal ran 23.3 kilometres from Cromford to the Erewash Canal at Langley Mill. The 10.5 kilometres of canal between Cromford and Ambergate which lie within the World Heritage Site was constructed in the early 1790s under the direction of William Jessop assisted by Benjamin Outram. The canal was intended as part of a through route to Manchester but it was not until the Cromford and High Peak Railway was constructed between 1824 and 1830 that this vision became a reality. The Cromford Canal promoters sought to unlock Derbyshire's immense mineral wealth, especially its limestone. Apart from the obvious advantages to Sir Richard Arkwright for his mills, he too saw the opportunity presented by exporting lime and sought a monopoly in this trade on the canal in return for which he was prepared to lend his name to the promoters of the canal project. Only when he was finally persuaded that such a monopoly would be against the law did he agree to give the canal scheme his energetic attention. He also agreed to sell most of his garden to the Canal Company to construct the Cromford Wharf. With his assistance the Canal Bill was steered through Parliament in the face of considerable opposition. The canal had a profound influence on the economic growth of central Derbyshire achieving a substantial outreach by means of its many wharfs and linking tramroads. Thus Belper, apparently bypassed by the canal, derived huge economic benefits from it. The canal terminus abuts Mill Lane opposite Cromford Mill. Cromford Wharf incorporates two warehouses, an office or counting house and two cottages. Once enclosed entirely by a stone perimeter wall, the wharf was home to a range of other facilities, these buildings have not survived. (3) When the canal was opened in 1794, there was a single terminal basin, preceded by a 'winding hole', where boats could turn round. The canal's water supply ran alongside the Wirksworth to Nottingham Turnpike Road and from the southern wharf boundary this was culverted to the end of the basin, opposite the 'Gothic' warehouse. The 'Gothic' castellations which give this first warehouse its common name were probably included at the insistence of Sir Richard Arkwright, to enhance the view across the River Derwent from Willersley Castle - the place he had intended to become his home. In the event he died before Willersley was completed and before the canal was opened. Because of the volume of trade, a second arm and warehouse were built, south of the first, to give the layout that we have today. The feed from Cromford Sough and Bonsall brook was channelled into this second arm, although the culverted supply to the end of the original basin was maintained to keep the water there fresh. It ran between the offices on the left and the warehouse. The name of Wheatcroft was associated with the Cromford Canal for over 150 years. They ran a coal operation that continued up until the second world war, despite this section of the canal being isolated from the main system by the final collapse of the Butterley Tunnel in 1900. The coal came from the Pentrich and Hartshay pits, to the west of the tunnel. Before the railways offered competition, Wheatcrofts had been based at Buckland Hollow, from which they operated fast and regular services carrying all kinds of goods. They later moved to Cromford, where they concentrated on the coal business. When boat traffic finally ceased, they bought the coal in by road. (4) Cromford Wharf is the terminal wharf of Cromford Canal as specified in the Canal Act of 1789. It was the main wharf for the transhipment of goods to and from Cromford and beyond. The Canal Act provided for two alternative termination points, one on the meadows near to the present railway bridge and the second which was built as part of the garden to Rock House. The original wharf was completed at the same time as the canal in 1794. The length of the wharf was extended by the building of a second canal arm from the winding hole situated at the south-east end of the original arm. Within the wharf enclosure were buildings and workshops associated with the canal. The wharf is bounded on the south-west side by the exposed rock escarpment below Rock House, on the north-west side by Mill Lane, and on the north-east side by a wall originally about 2.5m high backing onto Cromford Meadows. The wall continued round to meet the canal. Despite the demolition of part of the enclosing wall and several of the workshops, the wharf still remains very much as it was in the mid 19th century. (5) The retaining wall with loading bays to the east of the Northern Warehouse at Cromford Wharf is a Grade II listed building. Constructed in 1794 at the same time as the Northern Warehouse it is a low retaining wall of coursed dressed gritstone capped by large edging blocks. At its centre the wall curves into a square-ended loading bay to serve the incoming wharf at Cromford Basin. Near the northern warehouse the wall curves into a further loading bay and has a set of gritstone steps attached. (6) The canal sidewalls and curbs at Cromford Wharf are Grade II listed buildings. The basin is lined on its north side by approximately 200 metres of gritstone edging with various iron rings set into the curbs. The basin funnels into a narrow dock adjacent to the Northern Warehouse. The edging continues around the central wharf and lines a southern limb of the canal adjacent to the Southern Warehouse. This channel turns to the south to follow the line of Mill Road, it receives water from Cromford Mill via a culvert thus feeding the canal basin. The feeder channel was added when a piped feed from the Mill proved inadequate. The arch in the feeder channel sidewall (close to the gritstone post) bears the date 1821. The roadside channel is protected by a wooden handrail partly fixed on early C19 cast-iron posts and terminating at the shaped gritstone post which bears the date 182_. (7)

Sources/Archives (7)

  • <1> Index: Council for British Archaeology (CBA). CBA Industrial Archaeology Report Card.
  • <2> Bibliographic reference: CBA Panel on Indust Mons 1975 3..
  • <3> Unpublished document: Derwent Valley Mills (DVM) Nomination Steering Panel. 2000. Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage List Nomination Document. p 54, illust..
  • <4> Bibliographic reference: Potter, H. 2003. The Cromford Canal. p 14-18, illust..
  • <5> Index: Mansel Architects. 2004. Cromford Canal Survey. Survey ref: 1.
  • <6> Listed Building File: Historic England. 2011. The National Heritage List for England. 3/2957/10005.
  • <7> Listed Building File: Historic England. 2011. The National Heritage List for England. 3/2957/10004.



Grid reference Centred SK 3001 5700 (177m by 143m)
World Heritage Site Derwent Valley Mills

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

  • EDR1807

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Record last edited

Nov 7 2023 3:29PM

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